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Erik ten Hag praises Man Utd starlet Willy Kambwala for display vs Liverpool

Willy Kambwala of Manchester United

Erik ten Hag has praised Manchester United starlet Wily Kambwala for an impressive, coming-of-age display in the Liverpool clash and explains the rationale behind starting him in defence, speaking to the BBC as quoted by Metro.

The Dutch tactician took a brave call of naming as many as three teenagers in the starting lineup against Liverpool and it’s safe to say that the gamble paid off. Whilst Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo have been regular features in the starting XI this season, the decision to field Kambwala was driven more out of necessity due to the injuries to Raphael Varane, Jonny Evans, Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof.

That said, as Ten Hag himself conceded after the game, it would have been safer for the manager to drop Casemiro into defence and bring in a Mason Mount or Scott McTominay into midfield. The former Ajax coach showed courage in fielding the 19-year-old against the likes of Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez and it’s fair to say that he did not disappoint.

Kambwala played the entirety of the game and made two clearances, two interceptions and won one tackle whilst also not being dribbled past even once. He won two out of his three ground duels and his solitary aerial duel. He also completed 81% of his passes, including two out of five attempted long balls.

A morale-boosting performance

Although the game ended in a 2-2 draw for Man Utd, it felt like a moral victory after the manner in which their last two Premier League games played out. Getting one over their arch-rivals would have been fun but taking the Premier League title equation out of their hands is definitely a sweet feeling for Man Utd.

Speaking about Kambwala’s performance and the decision to put him into the firing line in a game of this magnitude, here is what Erik ten Hag had to say as quoted by the Metro:

“The decision to bring Willy in is because he has been a long time training with us and, in his first game against West Ham United, he also did very well, his progress is amazing. During training, we didn’t have any doubts and, for instance, we could have also brought Casemiro down and then bring another midfielder in. We were convinced he could do the job and he has done brilliant. I am very pleased, very happy and it is another signal and message of the future of Manchester United.”

‘Now it’s the challenge for him to do it consistently because, in the coming weeks, they will not return, so many players.

‘So it’s a great opportunity for him. We have also other options. We can also bring Casemiro into a centre-half position. But I think, the choice for today, he absolutely deserved it and he showed it on the pitch.’

The crucial phase for Kambwala is the need to start putting in such performances consistently. With Varane and Evans not expected to return any time soon, the 19-year-old could get an extended run in central defence and his performances could go a long way in establishing his future in the first-team.

Kambwala will be riding on an all-time high after that performance against Liverpool. However, it is important to stay grounded and realise that the path to success is going to be a long one. He does not need further inspiration than Mainoo and Garnacho to follow and let’s hope he can become a special player in Man Utd’s history.

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